CHARLOTTE, NC: Valentine’s Day is February’s most popular celebration, so it seems obvious that Myth Trivia’s ever-vigilant pursuit of discovering all things of little or no earthshaking consequence for us to focus upon St. Valentine, his legacy and the language of love.
St. Valentine, the martyred
Saint Valentine was a noted 3rd-century Roman saint who was martyred on February 14th in 269 AD for ministering to persecuted Christians. He was buried at a Christian cemetery north of Rome, and since the High Middle Ages, his Saints’ Day has been observed as the Feast of Saint Valentine (Saint Valentine’s Day) which has been associated with a tradition of courtly love.
Oddly enough, and certainly lesser known, is that St. Valentine is also a patron saint of epilepsy.
During the Middle Ages, it was believed that birds paired in mid-February and this was then associated with the romance of Valentine. Although Valentine legends vary, Valentine’s Day, as we all know, is widely recognized as a day for romance and devotion.
In 496 AD, the Feast of Saint Valentine, otherwise known as Saint Valentine’s Day, was established by Pope Gelasius I to be celebrated on February 14 in honor of the Christian martyr.
With that brief historical background, we now turn the folks at Mental Floss who have uncovered 11 words and/or phrases which are ideally suited for Valentine’s that have become more less lost in contemporary jargon.
Why not give them a try to see whether they arouse emotions or suspicions?
Defined as insane, deranged or crazy, “bughouse” refers to the early 20th-century use of the word by Americans to mean “crazy in love.” If you were “bughouse” over someone you were just “madly” wild about someone.
No, this has nothing to do with Donald Duck’s girlfriend Daisy. In William Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Pyramus refers to his lover, Thisbe, as a “dainty duck.” They didn’t live happily ever after, but that’s no reason not to bring back dainty duck as a sweet little term of endearment.
From stunning to hunky, there are plenty of ways to call someone “attractive.” None, however, have quite the old-timey appeal of dimber, a nice, gender-neutral term for pretty from the 17th century. Dimber cove refers to a handsome man, while dimber mort is used for a pretty girl or woman. No to be confused with “Dim and Dimmer.”
In Miguel de Cervantes’s Don Quixote, the title character nicknames a lovely peasant girl “Dulcinea,” derived from dulce, the Spanish word for “sweet.” Over time, people started using it as a general term for “sweetheart.”
Face Made of a Fiddle:
If you find your partner irresistibly charming, you can tell them they have a “face made of a fiddle” which means a face so welcoming and attractive that it appears to mirror the smile-like curves of a fiddle. Be careful not to confuse this with having a “face as long as a fiddle,” which describes a dismal, unhappy demeanor.
Since Valentine’s Day is already filled with sweet treats, it’s only fitting to replace the word “heart” with “jam tart” — a classic bit of Cockney rhyming slang.
When you’re fighting for the heart of a fair maiden, you can call your challenger a “prigster,” a word dating back to the 1670s which means “a rival in love.”
“Everything old is new again.” In a day when internet acronyms are commonly thought to be a contemporary creation, lovers in another era were expressing their feelings in shorthand long before the invention of texting. For example, starting in the mid-1940s, telegrams sometimes contained the acronym RILY, for “Remember, I love you” and letters were often delivered with the letters “SWAK” (Sealed With A Kiss) on the envelope.
Engaging in a bit of harmless flirtation this Valentine’s Day? Our 19th-century ancestors might call that “spooning.” Though it is also the action of cuddling your Valentine from behind while you take a nap.
The term “Sugar Report” caught on during World War II as a slang term for the letters that soldiers received from their wives and girlfriends back home. If you plan to send a lengthy email to your partner detailing your romantic itinerary for Valentine’s Day, or anyday, just type Sugar Report as the subject line.
Buss is an old-fashioned synonym for kiss that originated around 1570, possibly from the Middle English verb bassen, meaning “to kiss.” It also sounds fairly similar to a few kiss terms from Romance languages, like the French baiser, the Spanish beso, and Italian’s bacio.
In other words, in order to summarize how to express your Valentine’s feelings this year, why not tell your “dimber” better half “RILY” and to quit “spooning” with her “prigster” so that you can send her a “sugar report” before you throw her under the “buss.” Squarely on the lips, of course.
A sermon on St. Valentine
About the Author:
Bob Taylor is a veteran writer who has traveled throughout the world. Taylor is an award-winning television producer/reporter/anchor before focusing on writing about international events, people and cultures around the globe.
Taylor is founder of The Magellan Travel Club (www.MagellanTravelClub.com)
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